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Violent Clashes Between Hong Kong Police and Peaceful Student Protesters

More protesters arrived and they were gathered in front of the government headquarter. Photo from inmediahk.net

More protesters arrived and they were gathered in front of the government headquarter. Photo from inmediahk.net

Hundreds of riot police used pepper spray and batons to disperse peaceful student protesters at Hong Kong's Civic Square earlier today, September 27. Roughly 75 protesters have been arrested.

For the past week, thousands of university and high school students have boycotted classes, gathering in Tamar Park to demand that Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chung Ying open a public dialogue about election reform.

The Beijing framework set by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress requires candidates for Hong Kong's top leader, the chief executive, to get majority support from a nominating committee before running for office. This new principle, which guarantees the candidates of the chief executive will be pro-Beijing, does not enjoy wide support in Hong Kong. Leung, ignoring public opinion, has insisted that the Beijing framework keeps Hong Kong on the path of democratic development. He has refused to meet face to face with student protesters, accusing them of being “irrational”.

Over the past week, protesters had made several failed attempts to force Leung into a public debate. On September 26, a pro-Beijing group reserved Tamar Park for another function. At 10:30 p.m., student protesters decided to move their assembly from the park to Citizen Square in front of the main government building, which is designed as a public space but has been sealed off with barricades since June.

About 200 students managed to penetrate the barricades and enter Civic Square, but police stopped the rest of the demonstrators. As riot police attempted to enter the square in pursuit of the students inside, other protesters raised their hands (to show they were unarmed) and formed a human shield to block the officers. Confrontations broke out in various spots, and police ended up pepper spraying the peaceful protesters. So far, around 13 student leaders and 61 protesters have been arrested.

Hong Kong Apple Daily has released a video about the confrontation:

Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old leader of a high-school activist group called “Scholarism,” was handcuffed during his arrest. He is accused of participating in illegal assembly, disturbing public order and forcing entry into a government building. The police rejected his bail application.

Protesters formed human shields and raised their hands to show that they were peaceful. But the police still pepper sprayed at them.

Protesters formed human shields and raised their hands to show that they were peaceful. But the police still pepper sprayed them. Photo from inmediahk.net

Soon after news of clashes spread on social media, many people rushed to the scene at midnight to join the student protest. Hinhope, a local teacher, was among one of these late arrivals. Writing online, he described what he witnessed overnight:

1. 學生和市民在受傷:現場唯一可見的暴力與有人受傷,是警察用警棍攻擊只原地停留的學生和市民,以及警察持續不斷地用胡椒噴霧讓年輕人面部嚴重受傷。
2. 雨傘和水:因此,在現場的話,會見到不斷有後排的學生和市民,將雨傘和一瓶瓶的水傳到跟警察距離最近的人群;雨傘是為了減低胡椒噴霧射出時的傷害,而水是為了緩和痛苦。[…]
3. 舉高雙手:在場的學生和市民經常全體舉高雙手,以示大家手無吋鐵,且不會作任何行動——大家只是要站在原位,僅僅讓身體停留在那位置,以示爭民主的決心。僅僅站著,舉高雙手。但胡椒噴霧還是會一陣陣地向學生們射去。[…]
9. 人鍊、耐性:守在公民廣場入口那條路上,七到八排學生組成的人鍊陣,堅定不移,手勾手,就站在那兒,站了一整晚。他們的眼神,透視出非一般的耐性 […] 大多是年輕的女孩子。

1. Students and ordinary citizens were injured: The only violence I witnessed came from police. Some police used their batons to shuffle students and citizens who were just standing nearby. The police also pepper sprayed young protesters directly in their faces and seriously hurt them.
2. Umbrellas and water: You can see students and people from behind kept passing umbrellas and water to those who were near the police. The umbrellas were to block the pepper spray and water was to clean their faces and reduce the pain. […]
3. Hands up: The students and other citizens raised their hands to show that they were unarmed and would not fight back — people just stood there and occupied the space with their bodies to show their determination to struggle for democracy. But they were still pepper sprayed […]
9. Human shields and patience: On the road leading to Civic Square, students formed chains by holding each others’ hands. They just stood there for the whole night. You could see the patience in their eyes […] most of those standing on the frontline were young girls.

Citizen media platform inmediahk.net reporter Ng Cheuk Hang wrote on Facebook that he'd never before encountered such ruthless police behavior. He and other journalists captured on film several episodes of police pepper spraying demonstrators:

A photo taken by Ng Cheuk Hang when he among other photo-journalists were cornered and pepper-sprayed at.

A photo taken by Ng Cheuk Hang when he among other photo-journalists were cornered and pepper-sprayed at.

今晨受傷的過程是這樣的,先被防暴警察用盾牌拍打背包,然後向我直射胡椒噴霧,第一下尚可忍受,可是防暴警察再用盾牌逼我和前面的攝記和示威者埋牆,差點就人踩人,然後再向我們噴射多次胡椒噴霧,這時已經完全忍不了痛。
經過現場醫護人員醫治後已無事,但今次有同學被打得頭破血流,也有同學被推倒後再被警察拖行。這是我見過香港最暴力的一次鎮壓行動,面對學生,真的需要用到防暴警察嗎?
真的很痛,由心裡痛出來的痛。

The situation this morning was like this: riot police used their shields to hit my backpacks and pepper-sprayed my face. I could bear the first blow, but the police forced against a wall other photo journalists and protesters standing in front of me. I was almost trampled, and then I was pepper sprayed over and over. The pain was unbearable.

After being treated by a medical team, I recovered. But another student was hit on his head and bled a lot. Another student fell down and was dragged along the ground by police. This is the most violent crackdown I have ever seen in Hong Kong. Does the government really need to call upon riot police to respond to students?

My heart is filled with pain.

Police sealed off the civic square and took action to arrest 61 protesters in the afternoon on 27 September 2014. Photo from inmediahk.net's Facebook.

Police sealed off Civic Square and arrested 61 protesters in the afternoon on 27 September 2014. Photo from inmediahk.net's Facebook.

Meanwhile, Hinhope is urging teachers to strike and stand up for their students next week:

學生在帶頭行動、而受暴力對待了,老師和相關機構們,是否應考慮宣布星期一起全面罷課,聲援學生?預備佔中的人們,是否不應再等,立時與疲勞受苦的學生站在一起。

Students were on the frontline, facing violence. Shouldn't teachers and others in related spheres strike with the students next Monday? Shouldn't we be preparing for a mass sit-in, to stand together with our students?

Thousands of protesters were still gathering in front of the government headquarter late at night on 27 of September. Photo from Facebook user Fernando Cheung.

Thousands of protesters were still gathering in front of the government headquarter late at night on 27 of September. Photo from Facebook user Fernando Cheung.

Police may have arrested dozens of protesters at Civic Square, but more demonstrators arrived and occupied the road in front of the government headquarters.

A number of civic groups have condemned the police for using excessive force. Thousands of people were still gathering in front of the government building at Civic Square protesting against police violence and calling for the release of protesters late at night on 27 September.

The police announced the evening assembly illegal and urged the crowd to disperse. Riot police were on hand in large numbers, standing by and ready to disperse the crowd, if ordered to do so.

Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

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